The glitz and glamour of the elite game of tennis is easy to see every year when Wimbledon rolls around: Roger Federer strolling out in his own brand of clothing; friends and family lounging in the royal box; vast amounts of prize money on offer for the champion. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for players at the very top. Here’s ten of the reasons why top players don’t always have it their own way.
1. Home Is Where Your Family Is (And You’re Not)
It sounds like an ideal life – travelling the world, playing a sport at the very top level, meeting hundreds upon thousands of new people. And while many players have their family seated in the best stands at their matches, sometimes the pressures of travelling and scheduling make this impossible, and players can be away from family for months on end. Even though it can sometimes get lonely alone on tour, support is never far away; indeed, players’ families are often showing their support on social media if they can’t be at the game itself.
2. Sweet Charity
The idea of using famous people to drum up support for charity is nothing new, and tennis celebrities are no exception. Numerous tennis players, including former UK number ones Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, have taken part in sketches for Sport Relief, and Andy Murray currently in features a comedic style video for Unicef on his website, where he pledged to donate £50 to the charity for every ace he hit until the end of the year. A successful campaign, as many of them are, but between the tour schedule, media commitments and charity appearances, the life of a tennis star rarely gives rise to a day off.
3. Media Grillings
Talking of media commitments, it’s little known that both the WTA and ATP rulebooks stipulate mandatory media commitments for players throughout the year, including autograph signings, photo opportunities and radio appearances. Failure to adhere to these rules results in fines worth thousands of pounds from the respective organisations. That might not seem like a big deal for those of us who would jump at the chance to be in front of a camera, but when you’ve just lost an agonisingly close Grand Slam Final, sometimes the last thing you want to do is face the press.
Inevitably, just as with every other celebrity in the world, as a tennis player becomes famous, we the people want to know everything about their life – including everything about their family. In some cases, that fame is embraced: Judy Murray’s appearance on the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing in 2014 solidified her presence in the British psyche, but in the case of Andy and Kim’s forthcoming baby, I’m sure the pair would rather be left alone.
5. I Got Myself A Sponsor
Doubtless you have seen tennis players wearing the same brand of kit every time they’re on court. Perhaps you have even seen them looking suave in professional television adverts for luxury products, but it’s no wonder given the money that can be made from it. Federer, one of the biggest earners in this field, earned a reported $58 million in off-court endorsement deals between June 2014 and 2015. While the returns are worth it, promoting these products is yet another thing to fit into the busy schedule of an elite tennis player.
6. Work, Work, Fashion BabyMaria Sharapova openly admits her love for fashion on her Youtube social channel which frequently features her event preparations with stylist Adir. However unlike many other sports, on-court fashion gains just as much interest as that off-court. With aspiring players wanting to copy the most iconic looks, there is a certain level of pressure on designers to make their athletes look their best. It is now no surprise to see bold colours and patterns on tennis attire, but sometimes the risk gets mixed reviews.
7. Roll Out the Red Carpet
Despite being athletes, tennis stars are not exempt from the glamour of the red carpet – or the judgement that comes with it. The WTA even encouraged this judgement by putting up a social poll on their website in which people could vote for the best dressed female tennis player off-court at red carpet events throughout 2015. Not exactly what many tennis players want to become notable for.
8. Constant Scrutiny
Like any other celebrity, famous tennis players are at the mercy of the often controversial and harsh media. Body shape, showmanship and technique are amongst the list of things professional tennis players are scrutinised for. They also have the power to severely affect a player’s public image by taking comments made in interviews out of context so they are misinterpreted by readers and fans.
When some say superfan, others say stalker. While the majority of tennis fans are only after a picture or autograph, there are some that take it that little bit further. In 2008, eleven stalkers were banned from the Wimbledon tournament, and security concerns for female players in particular have increased after threatening messages were recently sent to the Romanian Simona Halep.
10. Forever In Transit
With tournaments across the globe, professional tennis players spend much of the year away from home competing and training in the perfect climates. Although there are some opportunities to take holidays between Grand Slams, training commitments often mean they miss big events at home including Christmas.
BONUS! Actually Playing Tennis
The gruelling schedule of travel, training, media commitments, charity work and the occasional ‘superfan’ must take its toll, and yet these players still find the energy to do what is most important – walk onto court and play hours of scintillating tennis for the world to enjoy. Tennis players around the world – we salute you!